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Rivalry Week: What it means for…

Nick Saban AP

Rivalry Week is at once the best and worst of times for college football fans.

At its best, this extended weekend wrapped around the Thanksgiving holiday offers up a litany of games that mean something beyond conference or BCS implications, giving all fan bases something just as meaty and satisfying: bragging rights and pride, especially when it’s an in-state rival humbled in defeat on the opposing sideline.  At its worst, however, this weekend means that yet another college football season is quickly wrapping up, with just a handful of regular season games remaining to go along with conference championship games and bowls.

There are, though, the obvious implications beyond just bragging rights and pride.  Myriad implications, from conference races to BCS placement to the chase for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

So, with that as the backdrop, here’s a look at the marquee matchups for Week 14 and the potential implications the outcomes of the games could/would/should have on all fronts.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn
“The Mother of All Iron Bowls” indeed.  The stunning turnaround by Auburn under Gus Malzahn — from 3-9, 0-8 last season to 10-1, 6-1 in 2013 — has nearly overshadowed Alabama’s quest for three straight BCS titles and four in five years .  Who would’ve thought, prior to September, that this year’s version of the Iron Bowl would carry more conference and national weight than Alabama’s games against Texas A&M and LSU combined?  Certainly not anyone who doesn’t end their prayers with “War Damn Eagle!”  Speaking of a Higher Football Power, the last four Iron Bowl winners have gone on to win the BCS championship.

What it means for…
… the SEC: Everything, at least as far as the West is concerned.  It’s a winner-take-all battle, with the victor staking its claim to the divisional title and a spot in the conference championship game against either Missouri or South Carolina.  The Tide would earn a share of the divisional title even with a loss, although, obviously, the head-to-head tiebreaker would go to the Tigers with a win.
… the BCS: An Alabama win keeps the No. 1 Tide on its year-long inside track for one of the two spots in the BCS title game.  Even with a loss, Alabama would be a near-shoe-in for an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, although that wouldn’t be clarified until after the conference championship game.  The same could be said for Auburn, which would get serious consideration for an at-large bid despite an Iron Bowl loss.
… the Heisman: Thanks to the missteps of others in Week 13, AJ McCarron has suddenly vaulted into the No. 2 position behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the eyes of both the voters and the oddsmakers.  A strong performance on a national stage would most certainly keep the Tide quarterback toward the top of the conversation and, depending on how the Winston off-field situation plays out, could send him hurtling toward front-runner status.

No. 2 Florida State at Florida
To say that the Sunshine State rivalry has lost some luster for this year’s game would be an understatement.  While Florida State is more than holding up its end of the bargain — nationally-ranked and seemingly predestined for a shot at the crystal — Florida enters the game armed with an embattled head coach and a six-game losing streak that’s the program’s worst since 1979.  The Gators won last year in Tallahassee, although the Seminoles are four-touchdown favorites this year in The Swamp.  While his boss continues to back him, Will Muschamp directing an embarrassing blowout loss in Gainesville could force Jeremy Foley to reconsider that very strident public support.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Literally nothing for either conference.  FSU has already locked up the Atlantic division’s spot in the ACC championship game, while UF was long ago eliminated from SEC East contention.
… the BCS: For a team that’s outscored its opponents 402-65 the past seven games, this game would appear to be nothing more than a worn-down speed bump on its inexorable march to the BCS title game.  Seemingly the only thing standing between the Seminoles and an early-January date in the Rose Bowl is a win over the Gators as well as an ACC championship game in which they will be prohibitive favorites regardless of which team comes out of the Coastal.
… the Heisman: For Jameis Winston, the Heisman is his for the taking — provided he doesn’t trip over himself the next two weeks and, more importantly, the investigation into an alleged sexual assault doesn’t give him bigger things to worry about than a fumbled trophy.

No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
Michigan has stumbled through a disappointing season with a 7-4 record that could easily be sub-.500 were it not for a couple of escapes against vastly inferior opponents.  At the other end of the spectrum is Ohio State, riding a nation’s best 23-game winning streak.  In fact, the Buckeyes set a school record last weekend, surpassing the 22-game streak of the 1967-69 squads.  The team that snapped the previous mark?  The 7-2 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, of course.  When it comes to The Game, you just never ever know  — especially when a heavy home underdog is involved.

What it means for…
… the Big Ten: As is the case for the game above this one, absolutely nothing.  Not only have the Buckeyes already clinched the Leaders division, they also already know they will face Legends winner Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game next weekend in Indianapolis.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions last year, OSU will be making its first-ever appearance in the conference title game.
… the BCS: If Ohio State has any shot at a BCS title, they have to hope either Alabama or Florida State loses once the next two weekends.  Outside of the crystal title game, they could also earn an automatic BCS bowl bid with two more wins, or perhaps an at-large bid with a loss in the Big Ten title game.  Either way, their BCS future won’t be decided until next weekend, although it could certainly take a significant at-large hit with a loss this weekend.
… the Heisman: When it comes to the Buckeyes and stiff-armed talk, “what if” is certainly in play.  Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season as the Heisman front-runner, but an injury that cost him a pair of September games knocked him completely off the radar.  Thanks to the stumbles of others, the quarterback is back on at least the periphery of the discussion, although it would take something monumental to once again make the junior a serious contender.  Perhaps Carlos Hyde, he of the three-game suspension to start the year, could make a late push?  Doubtful, but, as the last couple of weeks have shown, anything is possible when it comes to the most prestigious award in college football.

No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina
Stated simply, South Carolina has owned this rivalry of late with wins each of the past four years, with none coming by less than 10 points.  Steve Spurrier has Dabo Swinney‘s number and is not shy about letting people know about it, which is part and parcel of why this is such a tremendous non-conference rivalry.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Clemson’s chances at an Atlantic division title went down in flames in the midst of a 37-point beatdown at the hands of Florida State in mid-October.  If Missouri loses to Texas A&M, South Carolina will represent the East in the SEC championship game.
… the BCS: The Gamecocks’ lone opportunity for a BCS bowl rests in securing the SEC’s automatic bid via a conference championship.  If Florida State does indeed make the BCS title game, the Tigers are primed to replace the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl and insert the 70-33 jokes here.
… the Heisman: You would think that Tajh Boyd would be in the thick of the Heisman conversation.  The Clemson quarterback’s not, and I don’t have a clue as to why.

No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 8 Stanford
While it’s hardly on par with Notre Dame-USC, Notre Dame-Stanford has evolved into quite the entertaining rivalry the past several years.  Of the past nine games played, six have been decided by eight points or less.  The Irish own a 6-3 edge during that span, including an overtime win in South Bend last season en route to the BCS championship game.

What it means for…
… the Pac-12: The North division’s game of hot potato continued — and ultimately ended — last week thanks to Oregon’s lopsided loss to Arizona, handing the division title and a spot in the conference title game to Stanford.  The Cardinal will (likely) travel a week later to South winner Arizona State for a game that will decide the league’s automatic BCS berth.  If the Sun Devils lose to the same Wildcats that dumped the Ducks, the Cardinal would play host.
… the BCS: The Irish have no chance to move into the top-14 of the final BCS rankings necessary to qualify them for an at-large BCS bid.  If the Cardinal entertain any hope of qualifying for a fourth straight BCS bowl, they will need to win the conference; a third loss, whether it be this week or next, would effectively eliminate them from at-large contention.

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri
One year after Texas A&M exploded onto the SEC scene in wildly-entertaining fashion, the Aggies have been reduced to playing the role of spoiler to a fellow former Big 12 member.  Playing the role of 2012 A&M is Missouri, which enters Week 14 with something the Aggies of a year ago didn’t: an opportunity to claim its first SEC divisional crown.

What it means for…
… the SEC: The conference scenario for Mizzou is very simple and straightforward.  Win, and the Tigers are in the SEC championship game as the East’s representative.  Lose and they’re out, replaced by South Carolina.
… the BCS: With three losses on their current résumé, there’s no need to use “A&M” and “BCS bowl” in the same sentence, unless it’s separated by “won’t be in a.”  Just as it was for its conference scenario, Mizzou’s BCS dreams are very simple and straightforward: win this weekend… win next weekend… and they’re in as the SEC’s automatic bid.  Lose at any point the next two weeks, and the Tigers will (very likely) be sitting outside the BCS window looking in.
… the Heisman: Johnny Manziel made significant repeat strides in the eyes of those who passionately follow the Heisman the last several weeks before a damaging performance against LSU seemingly knocked him out of contention.  Of course, based on how the stiff-armed landscape has drastically shifted the past couple of weeks, a resurgent performance against a high-quality opponent could put the reigning Heisman winner right back in the conversation.

Texas Tech at Texas
No. 9 Baylor at TCU
The most interesting aspect of this pair of games is how Baylor responds to an embarrassing and devastating loss.  In firm control of the Big 12 race entering Week 13 and with a BCS title game appearance a possibility, the Bears’ loss to Oklahoma State all but ruined what was a once-promising season.  A loss to the Cowboys the previous week, oddly enough, also cost Texas control of its own destiny in the conference.

What it means for…
… the Big 12: Here are the scenarios for each of the one-loss teams currently tied atop the Big 12 standings and what they need to happen to claim the conference crown.

  • Oklahoma State: a win over Oklahoma in Bedlam Dec. 7 coming off a bye week, regardless of what Baylor or Texas do and based on head-to-head wins over both.
  • Baylor: an OSU loss, plus wins over TCU and Texas.
  • Texas: an OSU loss, plus wins over Texas Tech and Baylor.

… the BCS: For both Baylor and Texas, their BCS bowl odds are long.  Each needs an Oklahoma State loss in order to claim the Big 12’s automatic berth as neither will be in play for an at-large bid, although there’s an asterisk when it comes to that absolute –there are a couple of scenarios that could get BU in as an at-large, although they are longshots at best and pipe dreams at worst.

No. 24 Duke at North Carolina
Will the shoe fit, or will the clock strike midnight on Duke’s Cinderella season?  The Blue Devils are in the midst of a historic campaign, with nine wins tying the school record set in 1941 and the opportunity to reach double digits for the first time since the program began playing football back in 1922.  They’ve qualified for a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.  Simply put, Duke is one of the best stories of the 2013 season.  Whether the Blue Devils cap their fairy-tale story with a divisional crown remains to be seen.

What it means for…
… the ACC: If Duke beats North Carolina, which has won five straight after beginning the season 1-5, the Blue Devils will stake their claim to their first-ever ACC Coastal title.  If not?  A five-way tie between Duke (5-2), Virginia Tech (4-3), Miami (4-3), Georgia Tech (5-3) and North Carolina (4-3) is a possibility, although only the first four remain alive in the divisional race.  So, if Duke loses and all Coastal hell breaks loose, here’s what each team would need in order to secure the spot as Florida State’s sacrificial lamb in the ACC championship game.

  • Duke: a win over North Carolina; cannot win the division with a loss.
  • Virginia Tech: a Duke loss, plus a win over Virginia.
  • Miami: a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, plus a win over Pittsburgh.
  • Georgia Tech (ACC slate complete): a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, a Miami loss.

… the BCS: Whichever team survives the Coastal chaos and represents the division in the division in the ACC championship technically has an opportunity to secure an automatic BCS bid.  Realistically, none of the four teams with a chance to win the Coastal has any type of shot at upsetting the Seminoles in Charlotte.

USF at No. 19 UCF
How little respect does UCF get?  The Knights, whose lone loss on the season came by three points to No. 10 South Carolina, are ranked by the coaches three spots behind a one-loss Louisville team that UCF beat on the road.  Obviously the lack of respect for the AAC as a whole is playing a significant role, but it doesn’t change the fact that George O’Leary‘s squad deserves better treatment in the polls than what they’ve been getting.

What it means for…
… the AAC: A win by UCF pushes its conference record to 7-0 and clinches the AAC regardless of what the Knights do a week later against SMU.  Louisville’s conference title hopes remain alive but on life support, with the Cardinals needing two UCF losses as well as a win of their own Dec. 5 at Cincinnati.
… the BCS: The AAC receives an automatic BCS bid, so a conference crown for UCF also means a guaranteed spot at the BCS table, with the chair likely coming in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC foe.

No. 16 Fresno State at San Jose State
This game is all about the scenarios and possibilities, which appear below.

What it means for…
… the MWC: Fresno State has already clinched the West and will represent that division in the MWC championship game.  The Bulldogs will face Utah State for the league title if the Aggies beat Wyoming Saturday, Boise State — based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with USU — if the Broncos beat New Mexico and the Aggies lose.
… the BCS: If Fresno State can win out, they will battle Northern Illinois for what should be the lone BCS bowl berth for a non-automatic qualifying conference member.  In order for a non-AQ to qualify for an at-large bid, it needs to finish in the top-16 of the final BCS rankings and ahead of the lowest-ranked AQ conference winner (No. 19 UCF in this case); the Huskies leapfrogged the Bulldogs in last week’s rankings and are now at No. 14, while Fresno sits at No. 16.  Whichever of those two teams finish ranked higher in the final BCS standings, provided it’s in the top-16 and ahead of (presumably) UCF, will grab the non-AQ berth and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
… the Heisman: Derek Carr is one of the most prolific passers in the country, ranking first in total offense and passing touchdowns and second in passing yards.  Up until this week, however, he’s barely been a part of the Heisman discussion.  Thanks to the shortcomings of others he’s now in the mix, although it should never have taken others tripping up for that to happen.

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Ex-Texas DB Eryon Barnett passes away at age 24

Eryon Barnett

Unfortunately, there’s some sad news that has hit the Texas football program this holiday weekend.

Montana State head coach Rob Ash confirmed in a statement Saturday that one of his former players, Eryon Barnett, passed away Saturday afternoon at a Bozeman hospital.  Barnett was just 24 years old.

“We’re heartbroken by the loss of Eryon Barnett,” Ash said. “He fought through so much as a football player, and always showed a resilient spirit that everyone that knew him drew from and admired.”

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, no cause of death has been determined. An autopsy won’t be completed until Monday at the earliest.

However, the paper noted that Barnett dealt with health issues last year:

Barnett, a native of Euless, Texas, missed part of fall practice before the 2014 season because of complications from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. He also missed two games in November, beginning with a road game against Cal-Poly, due to similar symptoms.

It also put Barnett in the hospital this spring.

Barnett began his career at Texas, where he was a four-star member of UT’s 2009 recruiting class. He transferred from UT in April of 2012 and ultimately landed at the FCS program, starting nine games last season.

The passing of the former Longhorn didn’t go unnoticed by either his former program or ex-coach.

(Photo credit: Montana State athletics)

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Injured in car wreck, fourth USU Aggie remains hospitalized

Colorado State vs Utah State

Three Utah State football players have been released from the hospital following a car accident nine days ago.  A fourth injured Aggie, however, is not as yet as fortunate.

In a press release announcing that one of the five individuals injured in the accident, former USU softball player Sarah Vasquez, had been released from the hospital, the school confirmed that football player Travis Seefeldt remains hospitalized at a local medical facility. The release did note that Seefeldt (pictured, right) continues to improve from unspecified injuries.

According to reports at the time of the wreck, the unnamed driver of the SUV in which the seatbelt-less football players were riding pulled out in front of a semi at an intersection and was broadsided by the tanker truck, which was hauling 52,000 pounds of milk at the time of the accident.

The five occupants of the SUV had initially been reported as being critically injured.

A week ago Sunday, USU announced that senior defensive lineman John Taylor and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Adewale Adeoye, were released from the hospital.  Two days later, the same announcement was made for redshirt junior defensive lineman Edmund Faimalo.

Seefeldt has played in 39 games during his USU career, starting two of those contests.  Last season, Seefeldt was credited with six tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.  His .14 fumble recoveries per game was good for sixth in the Mountain West and tied for 43rd at the FBS level.

Exiting spring, the nose guard was listed as a starter for the Aggies.

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16,200 athletes filed claim to receive NCAA video game payout

USC Trojans v Arizona State Sun Devils Getty Images

A little more than a year ago the various legal battles involving former college football and basketball players against the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company resulted in a pair of settlements valued at approximately $60 million. Two-thirds of that was to be paid by EA Sports and the CLC, and the NCAA was on the hook for the remaining $20 million. Earlier this week final proposals for splitting the money among those college athletes making a claim was submitted for approval by U.S. District Judge. Those expecting some sort of payment could be looking at receiving a check anywhere between $1,000 and at least $6,700.

Athletes had until Thursday to make their claim, but it will still take some time before those checks start being mailed. First it must be known how many claims were filed, which will affect the payouts. According to a report from USA Today, nearly 16,200 athletes ended up submitting a claim, but each claim must be reviewed and approved by the firm tasked with confirming  and approving the claims.

The NCAA has already made it known that no punishments will be handed down to any current student-athletes filing a claim if they end up receiving a check through this legal process.

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Texas A&M seat reassignment lawsuit tossed in Florida court

Missouri v Texas A&M

A class action lawsuit between Texas A&M and long-time season ticket holders has been thrown out by a district court in Florida. The case had previously been dismissed by a federal judge in Texas, so it looks like these fans are running out of options.

The family of Texas A&M fan and booster Warren Moore sued Texas A&M for an alleged breach of contract and misrepresentation regarding season tickets. The family claims the season tickets were part of a lifetime guarantee from the university following a $60,000 donation to fund a scholarship. Eight others joined the class-action lawsuit before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas dismissed it.

In 1985 the Moore family donated $60,000 to Texas A&M to fund a scholarship. In exchange, the family was promised some of the best seats in Kyle Field for life. The family was also promised parking in addition to the tickets to the prime seats in Kyle Field. Since that 1985 donation, Texas A&M has undergone a massive stadium renovation, prompting Texas A&M to issue a letter to the Moore family and other season-ticket holders explaining they would have to become members of the Primary West Legacy Club at an additional cost of $15,000 per seat for the campaign gift as part of a seat reassignment process. On top of that, an annual $2,000 price for each seat over the next 15 years would be required. The Moores and at least eight other season ticket holders believe they should not have to pay such a price to keep their seats.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora goes to bat to help child with cancer

Jim Mora

Cancer sucks, and UCLA head coach Jim Mora is doing what he can to help raise money and awareness for one young child battling cancer.

Avery Huffman, the daughter of Scout.com‘s National Director of Recruiting Brandon Huffman, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her brain, and the location of the tumor made surgery impossible. No six-year old should have to go through that, and college football world has come together to support the Huffman family. A GoFundMe campaign has been started in support of Avery and her battle, and UCLA’s football offices took notice and responded.

Mora and UCLA are offered three fundraising options that will raise a good chunk of money while also giving the fan responsible for the donation a chance to get a look behind the curtain of UCLA football. For $10,000, UCLA will bring two adults on a road trip to the road game of their choice, complete with first class seats on the team plane and a room in the team hotel. Everywhere the team goes, so will the two fans and donors. A similar home package was also be available for a $5,000 donation. Both packages have already been claimed, raising $15,000 in quick order.

Five passes for a fall camp practice were available for $1,500 and 50 full game-day packages (tailgating, parking and game tickets) are available for a $1,200 donation. This is all money that will go toward a very worthy and noble cause, and it is good to see coaches like Mora stepping up in a time of need.

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Alabama self-reports multiple secondary violations

Nick Saban

Secondary violations rarely amount to much in the eyes of the NCAA, so do not expect Alabama to be handed a stiff punishment from the folks in Indianapolis after the university self-reported 13 secondary violations of NCAA rules. The violations occurred between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, according to a report from AL.com.

Names of players connected to various minor offenses have not been revealed, and the violations took place within multiple athletics programs at Alabama. Five of the violations stem from the football program under head coach Nick Saban.

One violation is for a player connected to a commercial endorsement through social media. The unnamed player was ruled ineligible before being reinstated by the NCAA and the football staff underwent rules education as a result. Another violation occurred when a player was accidentally awarded more scholarship money due to a computer entry error. This was discovered at the end of the semester during a routine audit, and the player was required to repay the excess payment.

The third reported violation was a player’s friend selling complimentary tickets to a football game. The friend was added to the player’s pass list and that player was ruled ineligible before being reinstated by the NCAA. No more free passes will be given to the player’s friend.

The fourth violation was for a player receiving aid and practicing with the team after being deemed a non-qualifier for such aid. The player’s scholarship has since been revoked and he must receive and reinstatement. It is unconfirmed but believed running back DeSherrius Flowers is the player connected to this violation. Flowers, a Class of 2015 early enrollee was ruled ineligible by Alabama in mid-June due to a “recently discovered initial eligibility issue.”

Last but not least, an assistant coach was found guilty of responding to a text message from a recruit. The coach was prohibited from contacting recruits for 30 days as a result.

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Report: Notre Dame, Navy to play in Jacksonville in 2016

Obi Uzoma, Tarean Folston

Navy and Notre Dame do not typically make too many trips to the state of Florida during the course of a football season, but each will be playing in the state in 2016. In fact, they’ll even be playing each other in the state in November 2016.

According to a report Friday by ND Insider, Notre Dame and Navy will play their 2016 game in Jacksonville, Florida on November 5, 2016. The game will be played in EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and recently undergoing upgrades to the stadium in hopes of keeping the Jaguars in town. Attracting some noteworthy college football game son the side is a nice perk too, and it seems to have worked.

Navy typically serves as host to Notre Dame in even-numbered years in the series, but tends to hold the game in a larger venue instead of its home stadium. The deal has not been officially announced, but ND Insider says the Jacksonville Sports Council has a press conference scheduled for this coming Wednesday, at which time it is expected to become official.

In the history of the Notre Dame-Navy rivalry, the game has been played in the state of Florida just once before. The 200 meeting was played in Orlando, with the Irish winning 45-14.

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NCAA now getting involved with Ole Miss and Laremy Tunsil

Memphis v Mississippi

What sounds like a messy situation at home is now getting the NCAA to come knocking in Oxford, Mississippi. The Clarion-Ledger reports the NCAA has sent officials to Ole Miss on Friday to interview the stepfather of Rebels offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and his alleged connection to agents, which would be violations of the NCAA rules.

Last week Tunsil turned himself into authorities after being charged for domestic violence following an incident in which Tunsil allegedly punched his stepfather in defense of his mother in a domestic dispute of some nature. Tunsil and his mother had filed a lawsuit against his stepfather, and his stepfather turned around and claimed Tunsil had been riding with football agents. It is the stepfather’s (Lindsey Miller) claim Tunsil riding with agents was the root of the argument.

“We are aware that Laremy and his family have met with potential agents, which is within his NCAA rights as a student-athlete,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement to The Clarion-Ledger. “Regarding the altercation, we will continue to gather facts and cooperate with the proper authorities.”

What this means for Tunsil and Ole Miss are two different scenarios in play right now. The NCAA is not always the speediest when it comes to investigations, and projecting how long one investigation will take is difficult to estimate. If the NCAA does find Tunsil guilty of accepting any benefits from agents (and yes, a car ride would probably fall within that category), then he will face a light suspension at the most. If there is more to the claims of associations with agents, that could be a much different story that is best to refrain from speculating until more information is known. The severity of the punishment for Ole Miss is also impossible to speculate on at this point in time until more is known about the situation, and whether or not there is anything to even bother focusing on.

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PETA investigated two (Michigan) Wolverines and a wallaby

Bennetts Wallaby and Joey.

Some people have dogs as pets. Others have cats. Others have fish, and perhaps some have other animals like lizards or frogs or turtles or snakes. How many have a wallaby?

Recently, Michigan football players were seen around the Ann Arbor campus posing for photos with a young wallaby, which was allegedly trying to be sold by the Michigan student-athletes. The wallaby, originally purchased in Michigan, was discovered on the Instagram page of Michigan wide receiver Jack Wangler, which was shared by quarterback Shane Morris. Per MLive.com, Wangler said the animal was not living in the apartment shared by he and Morris, but the animal was merely visiting. However, it was Wangler who reportedly answered the phone when a call to the phone number attached to the listing for the wallaby was called.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, organized a deal with the Detroit Zoo to provide a safe home for the wallaby. Instead, the wallaby was returned to the breeder that originally sold the animal. The wallaby was reportedly returned in excellent condition, according to a PETA representative, and doing well. Still, it was PETA’s preference the wallaby be given a chance to live out its life in the zoo alongside its own kind.

Ultimately a wallaby doesn’t belong in a private home any more than a wolverine does,” PETA Foundation deputy director of captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet said, per MLive.com. “These students and the University of Michigan had an opportunity to step up and set a great example by allowing the wallaby to spend the rest of its life with other wallabies in a natural habitat in an accredited facility. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball.”

Nice football puns there, Peet.

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Report: Baylor and Cal will (thankfully) not be playing in Australia in 2016

TCU vs. Baylor football

The dream of opening the college football season in Australia will just have to wait. Any plans to send Baylor and Cal abroad to play a 2016 season opener down under have been nixed. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported such news Friday afternoon (via Twitter).

Last month it was reported Baylor was openly discussing the possibility to open the 2016 season in Australia against a Pac-12 opponent. That opponent turned out to be Cal, although both schools would have had to opt out of season openers at home against FCS opponents. Doing so comes at a price, not to mention the lost revenue in hosting a football game for either. Throw in the expensive travel costs to ship a football program across the Pacific Ocean, and it is not difficult to see why these talks may have dissolved. Whether or not Baylor will continue to seek an opponent for a season-opening game abroad remains to be seen.

As things stand right now, Baylor is scheduled to open the 2016 season at home against Northwestern State on September 3, 2016. Baylor’s two other non-conference games that season are scheduled against SMU and Rice. Baylor’s strength of schedule became a hot topic during last season’s College Football Playoff hunt, and is perceived to be one of the reasons Baylor fell behind the top four playoff contenders in the end, most notably Ohio State. There is no non-conference scheduling requirement in the Big 12 to schedule games against other power conference opponents like there is in the ACC or SEC, but the Big 12 would benefit from seeing more of its top programs schedule tougher games. Scheduling Cal may not sound like a huge upgrade, but it is still a power conference opponent with potential to do some things offensively.

With or without Baylor on the schedule, Cal will still be getting its dose of Big 12 opposition in 2016. The Bears are scheduled to host Texas on September 17, 2016 in the back-end of a home-and-home series that begins this fall in Austin (September 19, 2015). Cal is scheduled to open the season at home against South Dakota State and has a road game at San Diego State scheduled to fill out its 2016 schedule.

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Kirby Smart: Alabama didn’t value OSU QB Cardale Jones enough

Cardale Jones,Landon Collins

In defense of Wisconsin, not many expected Cardale Jones to be capable of stepping right in to lead Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game as effectively as he did. But Wisconsin’s misfortune should have been enough of a wake-up call for Alabama with a month to prepare for the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl. According to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, he and the Alabama staff may not have done enough to keep the defense grounded and aware of what Jones could do.

“All three of them (referring to Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams)  said they did not respect the quarterback, and our job as the coaches was to make them respect the quarterback,” Smart said in an interview on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. “Well, they heard from the media, they heard from ESPN, they heard from everybody that he was a third-string quarterback. How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama? We didn’t promote him enough and they didn’t value his talents enough, and he came in — we thought he was a really good passer. Well, he ran the ball well, too. Well, we had not seen him run the ball . . . and not a runner like (Bama QB) Blake (Sims) and not a runner like their other guy, just big.”

In the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal game against the Crimson Tide, Jones completed 18 of 35 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 43 yards in the Ohio State victory.

Smart went on to praise Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had a monster performance as well. Smart said he saw his defense was going to be in for a long night against Ohio State’s offense even though the Crimson Tide held an early lead.

“We had not slowed them down. We had two red area stops, which were six points (two field goals), could have been 14,” Smart said. “We had a turnover, we stripped a ball. We had not slowed them down, and I’m thinking this could be 21 but it’s six, 21-6, could be 21-21. And then they scored right before the half, which we thought was deadly. They had a good two-minute drive and scored, and I knew that we were in trouble.”

Smart also said Alabama reached out to Houston head coach Tom Herman, who was Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach last season. He and Nick Saban asked Herman to offer his take on what he saw in Alabama’s defense that Ohio State was able to crack.

Helmet sticker to The Sporting News.

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WVU announces fireworks and stripe-the-stadium plans for 2015

Getting fans to dress all in one color for a football game is so old-fashioned now. Today it is all about striping your stadium in school colors. That is West Virginia will be doing with the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State.

Fans attending the October 10 home game in Milan Puskar Stadium will be asked to wear blue or gold depending on their section. Fans sitting in even-numbered sections will be encouraged to wear gold. All other fans are being asked to wear blue. Oklahoma State fans making the trip to Morgantown are more than welcome to join in the fun, I’m sure, but odds are pretty good they will try adding as much orange as possible to the scene.

In addition to the stripe out game against the Sooners, West Virginia will also have two games with some color-coordination among the fans. Fans are being asked to wear gold to the September 26 game against Big Ten foe Maryland. West Virginia is calling it a “Gold Rush.” The Mountaineers won a thriller against the Terrapins last season, leaving College Park with a 40-37 victory over the newest Big Ten member. West Virginia will later ask fans to all come wearing blue for the November 14 game against Texas. It will be just the second time Texas has played in Morgantown.

Need another reason to head to a West Virginia game this season? The season opener against Georgia Southern will have a fireworks show after the game.

Tennessee still set the bar about as high as you can go last season with its checker-out in Neyland Stadium. Kansas State will also be striping out its stadium this fall.

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Ranking the 10 most patriotic college conferences

The July 4th weekend is for all intents and purposes here, which means things tend to be a little slow on the college football news front. Instead of taking the day off though, I decided to rank the top 10 most patriotic conferences. Here is my list. Feel free to disagree with it as you see fit. Sorry, the independents do not qualify, as they are not an official conference.

1. American Athletic Conference

When the Big East crumbled, up rose the American Athletic Conference. Giving itself such a name made it one of the most patriotic conferences be default, but just this week it cemented its place ahead of Conference USA when Navy officially became a football-playing member. The conference also includes Temple, from Philadelphia. In case you forgot, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philly, so that should count for something.

2. Conference USA

The OG of patriotic conferences, Conference USA was once the home to Army football (before the Black Knights struggled and decided to go back to being independent). Now it is a conference rooted in the future growth and development of some young or upcoming programs. Consider them college football’s equivalent to colonies at this stage.

3. Mid-American Conference

Another conference with a direct reference to America right in its name, the Mid-American Conference serves us all some #MACTION, because this is America.

4. Patriot League

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. The Patriot League would have been higher had it been in the FBS but it receives special recognition in this list because it is the home to Army and Navy in non-football sports. We’ll give it half-credit for that. It is also the home to American University, which does not play football.

5. Big Ten

Is there anything more American than greed and the idea that bigger is better? Doesn’t that sum up the Big Ten quite well? The conference that added Rutgers and Maryland for no other reason to add more viewers to its innovative Big Ten Network, the Big Ten also hands out plenty of cash to its members, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

6. Mountain West Conference

America was once an underdog looking to prove capable of holding its own against the dominant powers. Then one day, America became that dominant power. That reminds me of the Mountain West Conference, home to more BCS-busters and BCS bowl victories than any other non-power conference. Don’t tell the Mountain West Conference they don’t belong, because they dream big and have even seen some of their own go on to be members of power conferences along the way (Utah, TCU). Dream big MWC, it’s the American way. Also, the home to Air Force football.

7. Colonial Athletic Association

Before we were a nation, we were just 13 simple colonies. The Colonial Athletic Association has members in nine of them spanning from Maine all the way down to North Carolina. That includes Delaware (the first state), Villanova (close enough to Philadelphia and Valley Forge to count), and William & Mary (in Williamsburg).

8. Great American Standings

Sure, we may think we are all great Americans, but the 11 members that make up the Great American Conference in Division 2 have a conference labeling them as such.

9. Liberty League

If you have never heard of the Liberty League, do not be alarmed for you are likely not alone. This Division 3 conference is home to eight football schools, including the Union Dutchmen and the Merchant Marine Mariners.

10. Presidents’ Athletic Conference

Last, but certainly not least, is another one from the world of Division 3 football. The Presidents’ Athletics Conference, or the PAC, is home to Washington & Jefferson (appropriately nicknamed the Presidents). Perhaps this one should have been ranked a little higher.

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Report: RB Delton Williams could return to Spartans this month

Delton Williams, Ryan Russell

After being left off the spring roster, running back Delton Williams may be preparing to return to the Spartans football program in time for the 2015 season.

Per a story from MLive.com this morning, it is expected Williams will return to the Spartans as early as this month, although the school and head coach Mark Dantonio have not commented on the running back’s status since his initial suspension. Williams was not enrolled in classes as of the middle of June after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor firearms charge as a result of a road rage incident in March.  If Williams does rejoin the program within the month, he will be back in Eats Lansing in enough time to participate in fall camp, which could help him be ready for the start of the season.

Williams appeared in 13 games for Michigan State last season, in which he rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns. Both of those numbers were good for third on the team behind Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. With both having moved on, Williams is Michigan State’s leading rusher returning in 2015.

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USF adds North Carolina St. transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling, too

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Steve Osondu

Late last month, UCLA quarterback Asiantii Woulard confirmed that he would be transferring to USF to continue his collegiate playing career.  As it turns out, he’s not the only new Power Five addition to the Bulls.

In confirming Woulard’s addition, USF also announced that they have added transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling to Willie Taggart‘s football program. The wide receiver comes to USF by way of North Carolina State.

In two seasons at NCSU, Valdes-Scantling caught 44 passes for 538 yards, with 22 catches each year. As a true sophomore, he started the first eight games of the 2014 season. He also started three games as a true freshman in 2013.

Both Valdes-Scantling and Woulard will have to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.  Each will have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

Neither will have a redshirt season at their disposal, with Valdes-Scantling using his for the 2015 season and Woulard his in 2013.

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